While Azerbaijan’s authorities deny that there are political prisoners in the country’s prisons at all — local and international rights groups disagree. Many former prisoners and their families complain that those locked up on political grounds face not only an unjust deprivation of their liberty, but special prohibitions such as on reading and speaking with their families. [Read more…]
Nearly five years after the Azerbaijani government began a renewed crackdown on dissenting voices, the environment remains hostile for opposition parties. The authorities create the semblance of a multi-party system by financing political parties whose role is to function as the opposition while maintaining the status quo. Some fear that suppressing genuine opposition and excluding it from the political arena will lead to more radical forms of activism, which could ultimately be damaging for the state.
The European Parliament, the EU’s elected representatives, have made clear they will not ratify a deal with Azerbaijan unless it improves it’s human rights record. The European Commission should now follow through with a clear message — Azerbaijan’s crackdown on dissent must end and political prisoners freed.
The number of political prisoners in Azerbaijan is among the highest in Europe. This repression serves not only as a tactic of intimidating journalists, activists, and the opposition, but also an instrument of foreign policy. [Read more…]